Editor’s Note: This is Greg Thomson’s first contribution to The Leafs Nation. He’ll be helping keep an eye on the Leafs’ prospects in the CHL and NCAA.
With most of the emphasis on the Leafs pipeline derived from a strong talent base with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, the Leafs prospects in the CHL and NCAA have flown under the radar this season. The likes of Greg McKegg, Sam Carrick and Josh Leivo have all made strides in the OHL. Read on to find out how they have performed as of late and where they stand in the Leafs system.
C/W, 6-0, 200, London Knights (OHL)
46 GP, 23 G, 33 A, 56 PTS, 40 PIM
The London Knights expected Greg McKegg to develop chemistry with first-year centre Max Domi, but didn’t foresee the rate that he is currently producing at. Since arriving in a trade to London on January 5th, McKegg has recorded 11 goals and 22 points in 11 games. The Knights have a commanding divisional lead and currently hold a four-point advantage over Plymouth Whalers as the OHL’s first place team, with 75 points after 48 games.
With Boston’s Jared Knight and Vladimir Namestnikov up front, along with Scott Harrington and Jarred Tinordi on defense, the Knights will challenge for a berth in this year’s MasterCard Memorial Cup. That is surely an event that both McKegg and Leafs brass will value as he continues to develop.
After back-t0-back 37 (in 67 games for a 0.55% rate) and 49 goals (in 66 games for a 0.74% clip), McKegg is only scoring at a 0.55% rate, but is poised to record a career high in assists, a credit to his well-rounded, two-way game. Playing on a team of London’s calibre, the opportunities to carry the puck from end-to-end and make individual plays are not presented. McKegg has developed a pass-first mentality, knowing that his linemates are capable of putting the puck in the net.
In a recent interview, Maple Leafs Director of Player Development, Jim Hughes, was quoted as saying McKegg “has a PhD in hockey IQ, he knows where the puck needs to go”. There’s no question that he has the potential to play a prominent role in the future for the blue and white, and he is only one step closer to that goal after joining London, the OHL’s powerhouse for development. Don’t believe me? There were four former Knights in the NHL All Star Festivities last weekend.
C, 6-0, 207, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
49 GP, 25 G, 21 A, 46 PTS, 75 PIM
While the 19-year old Carrick has already eclipsed his OHL career high in points with 46 in 49 games thus far, he isn’t projected as a high-flying goal scorer at the next level. What can be expected is a feisty, brash, energetic style of play that gets under the skin of opponents. He has continued to display his strong skating skills and sound two-way game for the Battalion in his fourth season with the team, who sit tied for first in the OHL Central Division with the Niagara IceDogs.
Although Carrick is among the top-40 in league scoring and the second most productive Leaf prospect behind McKegg, he can credit playing under Stan Butler, along with his linemates in Barclay Goodrow and overager Ian Watters.
Carrick has consecutively posted very strong performances in December and January, with back-to-back 14-point outputs. He will continue to be relied on down the stretch as the Battalion aim to make noise in the post season.
LW, 6-1, 185, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
44 GP, 21 G, 24 A, 45 PTS, 49 PIM
Arguably the most underrated prospect in the Leafs development system, Josh Leivo of the Sudbury Wolves was tabbed as a ‘potential third round steal’ by scouts and observers. He is beginning to fill out his frame and use his projectable size to his advantage when fighting for the puck.
Much like Carrick, Leivo plays with tremendous energy and benefits from having a longer reach to win puck battles. The composed winger must improve his skating and continue to fill out in order to maximize on his potential as a future power forward.
His 16 points – 7 goals and 9 assists – in January alone account for over a third of his total points all season. Another strong finish, similar to last season, will bump up Leivo’s stock in the eyes of Leaf management heading into the off season.
This And That
– Since joining the Miami University Red Hawks, Tyler Biggs has showed signs of his potential, although has not scored as many points as some expected leading into the season. In a late-November interview, Miami head coach Enrico Blasi said, He’s very physical, so he can possess the puck at great lengths and for a big man he’s got really good hands.” With six goals and 11 points in 24 games, along with 49 penalty minutes, the 18-year old Biggs looks to finish the season off strong and take a more prominent role as a sophomore next season.
– 2011 first round pick Stuart Percy, captain of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, was having a terrific season, both offensively and defensively, before going down with a concussion (his second of the season) on December 11th. He has yet to even skate, and considering the Majors position in the standings, they will take a slow recovery path with their most prized defenseman.
– Often tabbed as ‘the next coming of Darcy Tucker’, former second round pick Brad Ross is well on his way to becoming an effective agitator at the next level. He is making a strong case, as he recently topped the 30 goal and 30 assist mark, not to mention he has over 125 penalty minutes. He’ll be a major factor for the Portland WinterHawks come playoff time, when his style of play is truly on display.